This is a well-made spy thriller based on real events. It’s apparently a well-known story in the UK (where it was a TV miniseries back in the ’90s) but is not a story I was aware of. In North America, all we here about is the Kennedys and their decision making during the Cuban Missile Crisis, not who got them the information.
The production values are really high and it’s clear the director knows how to shoot a film. I was surprised to learn it was one of his first films (though he is an experienced theatre director) as he has a sure hand. There are some really good shots. The story is pretty compelling, as well, and it’s nice to watch a spy movie without unnecessary plotting and silly triple-crosses.
The score is a little over-the-top at times (to put it mildly) and the film gets a little melodramatic once a major plot point happens. But these are minor nitpicks. A bigger criticism would be that this is just another Cold War spy movie. It’s well-made but there are lots of them. Does this add anything to the genre? No, not really.
The real quibbles are over how accurate the film is. Brosnahan feels like an impossible character, as there’s basically no way this woman existed. Also, there is a suggestion that Penkovsky was not genuine. Now, it’s possible that this suggestion is silly but the film doesn’t even acknowledge it. I understand that, from a dramatic perspective, that could be a big problem, but it might be a more interesting story than the one told here. (I’m really not sure this is fair and focusing on the possibility that Penkovsky wasn’t genuine could have led to some bad narrative places.)
I do want to mention that we both felt like Ninidze was far and away the best part of the film and I’m surprised he isn’t in more English films.
Anyway, worth watching if you like old school spy thrillers.